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11/12/2017

LGA says councils are hampered by planning fee increase delay

Words: Laura Edgar
Money / iStock-185267728

By the end of this financial year, local authorities will miss out on an extra £70 million if the government does not bring forward long-awaited measures to increase planning fees, the Local Government Association (LGA) has warned.

This is hampering councils’ ability to process applications, it added.

Last week, the House of Lords debated the regulations set to bring a rise in planning fees, along with other measures to the planning fees system, including a new fee for prior approval for a variety of new permitted development rights.

The Lords approved the proposals, which will now be debated in the House of Commons.

Now councils are warning that an immediate increase is needed to make sure that applications are processed as efficiently and effectively as possible. They point out that although chancellor Philip Hammond said in his Budget that he would introduce measures to speed up development, he did not pledge new money to help resource planning departments.

The LGA has campaigned for councils to be able set fees locally to help cover the cost of processing planning applications.  

The representative body for councils in England and Wales said councils were expecting to be able to raise fees by 20 per cent in July, but the date was been pushed back. They are also awaiting the results of government consultation to raise them again by another 20 per cent. The LGA said it is crucial December’s Local Government Finance Settlement includes the ability for them to make this first rise immediately.

In August, The Planner reported on LGA analysis suggesting that planning applications would cost local taxpayers £1 billion over the next five years to 2022.

Since 2012, which was the last time national fees were increased, communities have paid for up to a third of all planning applications, diverting “desperately-needed resources” away from other “vital” local services.

Martin Tett, the LGA’s housing spokesman, said that while council planning departments are doing “an incredible job”, the “simple fact is that if the government is serious about speeding up the delivery of new homes, they must provide more resources for our planning departments”.

He urged the government to bring forward the increases in planning fees as soon as possible.

“Our planners both protect local environments and ensure appropriate and affordable homes are delivered for our communities. That’s why ultimately, council planners should be able to set fees that reflect the needs of their local area.

“As a minimum first step, however, the government needs to deliver those fee increases that they have already committed to. By April next year, if the fees are not forthcoming, planners will have missed out on £70 million, which is money that would help us approve applications, safeguard our environments, and deliver homes and communities to be proud of.”

Image credit | iStock

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